The International Space Station received three new crew members this past week following extensive pre-quarantine measures to ensure that those going to space wouldn’t bring COVID-19 along with them into a confined area in outer space for an extended period.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner blasted off from the Kazakhstan-based launchpad on Thursday atop of a tried and true Russian Soyuz rocket. These new crew members will replace Andrew Morgan, Jessica Meir, and Oleg Skripochka, who are still currently residing at the International Space Station until their slated return home date of April 17th.
The rocket launch was much different than normal, as only essential workers were permitted at the launch site. Moreover, the crew’s family members couldn’t have a physical presence at the launch site because of the COVID-19 mitigations currently in place.
The new crew arrived safely at the International Space Station almost six hours later, where they joined existing crew members and were greeted with hugs and salutations.
Soon enough, the United States will turn to commercial space companies like Boeing and SpaceX to send astronauts into space instead of relying on Roscosmos. NASA plans to send two astronauts into space as early as next month via a SpaceX rocket in what will be the first crewed launch from American soil since the Space Shuttle era. However, these astronauts won’t be docking with the International Space Station; instead, they’ll be coming right back to Earth since this will be merely a test launch.
The International Space Station’s latest crew members should keep the International Space Station busy until NASA and its independent contractors figure something out in terms of space launches.